I read a lot of books about jazz, some of them my own and others from whatever library is closest in one place or another. At the moment, I’m in a jazz-starved corner of Utah where any mention I make of “jazz” is met with “Yeah, it’s a great team.” Why Utah would choose to name its professional basketball team after music that’s hardly known here from the look of things is beyond me. But, hey, I’m not judging – just observing.
Before you rush to let me know about Red Nichols, Utah’s one big claim to jazz fame, I’ll tell you that I am somehow distantly related to him. (Utah is a place for distant relations with hordes of cousins everywhere.) But the Wikipedia entry on famous musicians from Utah doesn’t afford him so much as a mention.
Given all that, it was a breath of fresh jazz air to find a delightful book at the neighborhood library this week. The History of Jazz is by Stuart Kallen and part of a series for young audiences titled “The Music Library.”
Kallen doesn’t write down to his young audience, nor does he shine things up by leaving out important information about addictions and afflictions that have taken their toll on the jazz world over the years. Since the book is intended for students, it includes a good bibliography, a list of books “for further reading” and chapter notes that identify sources for all the quotes. And there are a lot of quotes including Louis Armstrong’s legendary definition of jazz: “Jazz is music that’s never played the same way once.”
For anyone new to jazz and wishing to learn more, or for anyone who wants to introduce their own young readers to the music, Kallen’s book is a great place to start. Even those better acquainted with jazz will find tidbits and treasures, along with a lot of good photos.
Kallen is an author who lives in San Diego and has written hundreds of books for young readers as well as a few for adults including a couple on the subject of beer. His music-writing creds must come largely from his “other” job as a singer/songwriter and guitarist in the San Diego area.
For Stuart, I dedicate this great old tune, “I Could Write a Book,” from the hit Rodgers and Hart musical, “Pal Joey.” Many have recorded this one, and the jazz trio in the club where I hung out while “doing research” for my own jazz novel played it more than once when I walked in the door. It’s done here by Miss Dinah Washington and friends with arrangement by Quincy Jones. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6XCS9MXYHY
The next tune is one of my all-time favorite Bill Evans recordings. If you’re in love, you’ll understand. If you’re not, don’t give up hope. With music like this, it could happen anytime. Here’s the late, great, greatest Mr. Evans – “Like Someone in Love.” Listen for the music between the notes. Evans went to a lot of trouble working on those silences. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFoapxPvZy4
Speaking of Louis Armstrong, and we were, and speaking of love, and we were, take your partner gently by the hand for a turn around the dance floor with the master. Love often begins after all with “A Kiss to Build a Dream On.” If you’re alone, ask the attractive stranger at the next table to dance. Go on. One never knows. Play it, fellows. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHjZQb-kGek
Okay, I’ll admit it – the mood is definitely romantic tonight. The stars seem to be aligned for cozy cuddling and soft whispers. Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond are more than happy to help out here with a version of “My Romance,” charmingly bouncy but not so much as to mess with the mood. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MxpjQLTTPKQ
Finally, John Coltrane with McCoy Tyner says all there is to say when it comes to romance, “I Want to Talk About You.” The opening notes on this one always get the juices going. I have it on a Coltrane CD titled, “John Coltrane Plays for Lovers.” Amen to that. Get ready to get mellow. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4cQkkObYDY
And that’s a wrap for this time.
Stay sweet. Stay happy. Stay in love.